Seeing Red, er rather
. . . Seeing Red
Everyday life can sometimes be a little gray. In all honesty its usually 18% gray. We see wonderful scenes and spectacular views through photography. Many times though, these images are are a little dull. Not the image itself, but the color, the overall scope of colors with little or no highlights or shadows or any complimentary colors.
These images can be a variety of scenes. Gray street scenes or perhaps great green landscapes. Although the image itself looks great, there often seems to be something missing, lacking or perhaps just not right.
As photographers and artists we will run to colors to brighten up dull images. We can add bright colorful elements to the images by way of objects or subjects. We can re-compose the image to include other items or landmarks. We can even get into the digital lab and dress it up with new colors.
When color is needed we often turn to the color red. Red is a photographers best friend. There are even jokes about red, "When in doubt, add a red canoe".
Recently someone asked me to critique some of their photos and they had a spectacular rock climbing photo with a climber nearing the crest of a great cliff face. The image was taken from above but also from behind as if there was another cliff twenty or thirty feet away and the photographer was above and looking towards the cliff face the climber was scaling. The image taken with a wide angle lens showed the climber atop the photo. The rope was visible all the way down and and at the bottom you could see a spotter helping out with the rope management. Everything was well exposed and focused. The colors were good, that is the gray rock face was prominent, there were some bright green trees and shrubs down below. Both the spotter and climber were wearing bright yellow.
In asking for critique the photographer stated that the imaged just didn't look right. He was trying to get his image published and this shot was just not perfect for him. The climbing spot was local and he could go re-shoot if he had to.
I looked at the image for some time. Looked at all the elements in the photo. Checked out the composition. Everything looked great. But he was right, it just didn't seem as spectacular as it should be considering it appeared perfect.
'Click', the light went on. A thought occurred to me and so I launched Photoshop. Using the trusty 'Replace Color' tool I changed all the bright yellow of the climbers clothing to 'Red'. Voila! The image immediately looked better as my original thought suggested it might.
But why? Why was the red better than the yellow? I checked out the image and noticed that the yellow clashed a little with the green of the trees. The yellow was also a little dull compared to all the gray cliff face that dominated the image.
I then decided to check through some old magazines and books and found samples of images and realized that in many cases when the overall image or scene is rather dull, the best stand out color appears to be red. Although yellow is a rather bright color, it is not a sharp contrast to dull grays and clashes with greens. Blues and other colors also just don't seem to be as good as red. Why?
A groundbreaking study by two University of Rochester psychologists published online Oct. 28 by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology adds color, literally, to the age-old question of what attracts men to women. Many women of all shapes and sizes and ethnic backgrounds. Many were even well known faces such as movies stars. The interesting thing that was done is that most of the women appeared several times within the study sessions but in each case the women wore a different colored dress. You can guess where I am going here, It was scientifically proven that men preferred the color red more than any other color.
I guess, there is something about that 'Lady in Red'. It would be interesting to do similar studies with women showing how they react to color on the opposite sex. It would also be interesting to see how people, men and women reacted with different subjects, perhaps red, yellow, green and blue canoes.
© 2008 Francois Cleroux
(Version 1.01 - November 2008)
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